The big news out of New England this morning was regarding Brandon Spikes. ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that Spikes was placed on season-ending injured reserve partly because he was late to practice last week. Spikes was apparently late on Friday, January 3 on the morning after Snow Storm Hercules blanketed the Northeast with over a foot of snow. Spikes tweeted a photo that morning at 7:14 a.m. of his car stuck in the snow.
However, after this news came out, Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald talked to another source who says that Mortensen's report is 'absolutely untrue and unfounded'. According to Howe, Spikes placement on the injured reserve was mutual and garnered no disagreement from Spikes himself. He compares this situation with that of the one in 2009 involving Randy Moss, Adalius Thomas, Gary Guyton, and Derrick Burges.
But obviously the most important story of the day is the Patriots upcoming game against the Indianapolis Colts. Boston Globe writer, Jim McBride broke down the keys to a Patriots victory and explains which team has the advantage at each position. McBride believes the Patriots will ultimately come out with a 34-20 win. Tom Curran also offered a preview for the game on CSNNE.com. He broke down 12 elements that will be a factor in the game and he concludes with a prediction that New England will win 27-17.
It seems as though the Patriots appear to be slightly more appealing to the experts this week. Eight of the thirteen ESPN experts picked New England to win today. NFL.com's Dan Hanzus also picked the Patriots to win 24-17 in his preview, while both Michael Irvin and Steve Mariucci from the NFL Network also have New England winning. If you want to share your own take on the outcome of today's game, WEEI has set up a poll on their website where you can voice your opinion.
But in order for the Patriots to win, they are going to have to play well. Indianapolis will certainly not be a pushover. They will have to do a number of things right in order to advance to the AFC Championship. ESPN Boston's Mike Reiss lists 11 things along the path to a Patriots victory.
It may be surprising to some that Reiss does not list Tom Brady in his article. New England's future Hall of Fame quarterback will need to play well, but he doesn't need to light up the scoreboard through the air. However, ESPN Analyst Ron Jaworski still ranks Brady as the most trustworthy quarterback playing this Saturday, with Andrew Luck earning the third spot.
Boston Herald writer, Ron Borges offers his own take on the Brady-Luck hype. Though the two quarterbacks will never be on the field at the same time, Borges says all eyes will be on them in this matchup.
"Is there a new kid in town, or will the aging but not yet aged fastest gun in the East again prevail?" asks Borges. "That will only be determined when Andrew Luck is helmet-to-helmet with Tom Brady tonight, each with an itchy trigger finger near their holsters. All we have to wait for now is for them to draw and all questions will be answered...for now."
One guy who isn't convinced Luck will be able to get it done today is Peter King. During a radio interview on WEEI's Mut & Merloni, King said he is skeptical that Luck will be able to produce a great game. King expects that the Patriots defensive line will be able to pressure Luck, while the secondary will take away T.Y. Hilton -- both of which could spell trouble for Indianapolis.
"He's not been averse to making some huge mistakes. Look at the first half last week, where he was vastly outplayed by Alex Smith," explains King during the show. "I kind of look at him right now and just say I think he can be great any week. But I also think he's going to still make mistakes because he's still learning the game."
But even if Luck does play poor early, don't count him out. Paul Kenyon wrote an article in the Providence Journal this morning that claims both the Colts and Patriots are two of the most resilient teams in the NFL. Both teams have had to overcome big obstacles and have plenty of experience coming back late in games.
"It is what playoff football is supposed to be. It is a good match," concludes Kenyon.
The Boston Globe's Shalise Manza Young echoes this idea stating that resiliency is the Patriots' biggest strength. She applaudes the team's mental toughness.
"It's not something you can see, manufacture or predict. But getting every player working toward the greater good, to put aside his interests for the interests of the team, to believe that injuries, even to key players, can be overcome and three-touchdown deficits against future Hall of Fame quarterbacks can be erased, are necessary elements for a successful team," says Manza Young.
In other words, Manza-Young believes they're battled-tested and they're ready. Her Boston Globe colleague, Dan Shaughnessy also notes that the patriots have specifically had a lot on Saturday playoff games. He lists six Saturday wins where New England has played exceptionally well.
And lastly, check out this great interactive element on Boston.com. This "play predictor" tells you the percentages of run or pass for each down and distance the Patriots have faced this season. You can also specify the area of the field you want to research. Very cool!